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En Primeur 2009: silky tannins and generous fruit on the right bank

The En Primeur 2009 campaign has been launched in London – informally – with the first trade tasting of the Bordeaux vintage from the right bank.

The Cercle Rive Droite is a grouping of some three dozen chateaux ranging form St Emilion Grand Cru Classes to Bordeaux Superiors.

The group includes Pomerol properties like Fleur de Bouard, belonging to the de Bouard family of Angelus, Stephan Derenoncourt’s Rol Valentin and a handful of chateaux from St Emilion satellites Lussac, Canon Fronsac and Lalande de Pomerol.

Around half of the properties retain Alain Raynaud as consultant. Raynaud, former owner of Chateau Quinault – which he sold to Bernard Arnault in 2008 – owns two properties, Croix de Gay and Fleur de Gay.

Last night’s tasting, at the French ambassador’s residence in Kensington, was well attended – but not mobbed – by the UK trade.

The wines were well-received, though journalists are careful not to appear to buy into the general air of over-excitement about 09 that pervades any Bordeaux gathering, and which will reach its peak during en primeur week at the end of this month.

The consensus of press and merchants was that the wines were better balanced than had been expected, with nice lift and perfume, silky tannins and generous fruit. There was some hint of jamminess but not nearly as much as might have been expected with some of the wines weighing in at 14% alcohol.

Jonathan Kinns of importer Winegrowers Direct commented on the ‘nice perfume’ and ‘lifted’ quality of many of the wines but queried whether the acidity will be high enough to counter the high alcohol.

Alain Raynaud, who was at the tasting, said that alcohol and sugar were the big challenges of the vintage.

‘The difficulty was to pick late enough to have ripe tannins, but not so late that you are left with residual sugars in the wines.’

As to acidity, producers maintain that the cool nights took care of that. Camille Poupon of Chateau La Rose Perriere in Lussac said the cool nights made the vintage – and allowed them to leave the grapes hanging until 15 October, up to two weeks later than normal.

Sarah Marsh MW found the wines ‘nicely balanced and elegant. They carry the high alcohol very well, and the acidity is good’.

She added: ‘many are juicy, even saturated, but I didn’t find any jamminess.’

The producers themselves are enthusiastic – none would say this is anything but a great vintage – but they are more hesitant about the market. Many agreed it would be a long campaign, with top properties the last to come out.

Hélène Garcin-Lévèque of Chateau Clos l’Eglise in Pomerol, said, ‘We think – no, we know – it’s a good vintage, but as for the market it’s difficult to say.’

Raynaud said no prices would be higher than 2005, warning that the markets would not stand a huge increase.

‘This vintage is better in quality than 2005 but that doesn’t mean we increase – if we price too high we kill the market in the US.’

He was prepared to tell decanter.com his Fleur de Gay would release at around €40 a bottle.

At La Fleur de Bouard, Stephanie de Bouard said properties would wait longer before releasing. ‘There’s more demand, and the economic climate has recovered a bit but it’s still fragile and we need to be cautious.’

And the price of her family’s flagship, Chateau Angelus?

‘It will be between the price of the 2005 – €130, and the price of the 2008 – €50. I can’t say more than that.’

  • On the left bank, Bernard Magrez, proprietor of Chateau Pape-Clement in Pessac, said it made sense for the First Growths to come out at the same price as the second tranche of 2008 – around €200.

    ‘It’s important people don’t get carried away with their pricing for 2009,’ he said, urging lower prices than 2005, even though ‘quality is higher’.

    Pape Clement would come out at €70 or €75 ‘maximum’. The 2008 vintage was €55.

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    Written by Adam Lechmere, and Guy Woodward

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